There are parts of southern Utah that are well‑known, but not many people have heard of the small town of Hurricane. And that’s just the way Ernest Lee likes it. The owner of Combat Motors has a picture window in his office with an unobstructed view of red rock mesas typical of the local landscape. It’s a vista that Lee personally staked out when Combat’s new headquarters was being designed, relocating from Alabama in 2023.

Combat Motors Earnest Lee
Ernest Lee is taking Combat Motors to the next level.

Motorcycle Roots

Lee got his first bike when he was 15 – a nonrunning Yamaha XS650, which he tore down and got roadworthy again. At the time, he was negotiating freight contracts for his dad (see sidebar “The Most Interesting Man in the World?” below). He upgraded to a new Suzuki GS500 when he turned 18, but a confrontation with a semi and a guardrail on a highway left him with a broken foot. 

Coincidentally, a broken leg had rendered Lee wheelchair‑bound in 2017 when he discovered Confederate Motors. Looking to reward himself for getting back on his feet, he purchased a Confederate P‑51 Combat Fighter.

Combat Motors Earnest Lee
Combat’s recently constructed facility in Hurricane, Utah, has 8,000 square feet of space inside.

At the time, Confederate was rebranding itself as Curtiss Motorcycles and going all‑electric. With his law background, Lee was able to help Confederate founder Matt Chambers with the transition, and in 2018, Chambers offered to sell Lee the Confederate brand.

Lee took Chambers up on the offer, and he hired former Curtiss bike builder Jason Reddick and designer Andrew Reuther to continue the legacy. 

Combat Motors Earnest Lee Jason Reddick The Quail
Jason Reddick (Combat’s “master builder and test pilot”) and Ernest Lee displaying a Combat Wraith at The Quail Motorcycle Gathering in 2023. In 2009, Reddick set an APF-2000 record on a G1 Wraith, whipping its JIMS Racing air-cooled V-Twin to 166.46 mph at Bonneville.

“All of a sudden, I had a motorcycle company,” Lee said, adding that the brand’s name change soon followed. 

“I spent a year going around to shows selling Confederate motorcycles, and I realized I spent more time explaining that I wasn’t a racist prick than I did selling motorcycles,” he said, adding that it didn’t help that his last name was the same as a famous Confederate general. 

Combat Motors Earnest Lee
That’s not a painting; it’s Ernest Lee’s office view every day.

“If it takes you more than eight seconds to explain yourself, you’re spending your time doing something you don’t need to be doing.”

Given his service in the Army and the fact that several of the bikes already had “Combat” in their names, the answer was obvious. Thus was born Combat Motors.  

More Than Just a Pretty Face

It is important to Lee to maintain the brand’s ethos, “Treasure American hand‑craftsmanship,” which played into his decision to relocate to Hurricane, Utah.

Combat Motors Hellcat
Twin-cam S&S Motors 124ci V-Twins will be at the heart of the next Hellcat and future Combats.

“There’s manufacturing here,” he explained. “We have CNC shops that are willing to cut the parts for us, so having our vendors within driving distance was really important. And I’ve always thought that we need to have more U.S. manufacturing. I’m determined to do it.” 

The new facility also has room for growth. Lee said his vision is to crank out six bikes per week. He also plans to trim down the line to just three models: the Hellcat, the Fighter, and the range‑topping Wraith tested in our October 2023 issue. 

Related: Combat Motors Wraith Review: Innovation Reinvented

Lee said 15 Wraiths have been sold in the past few years, an impressive amount considering the Wraith is priced above $150K. Combat is working on a redesign of the Wraith to incorporate a new motor. Lee said the new Wraith might weigh less than 400 lb, but it will cost upward of $200K.

It’s the Hellcat model that will spearhead Combat’s push into the future. The model is being completely redesigned around a new engine and will become the volume leader in Combat’s inventory when production commences near the end of the year. 

Combat Motors Hellcat
You’re looking at a digital rendering of Combat’s new Hellcat as it nears its production form. All that CNC-aluminum goodness and its wild girder fork are expected to cost less than $80K.

The Hellcat will retail at less than $80,000, which is an eyebrow‑raising figure but relatively inexpensive for a high‑end custom motorcycle. Scalability will be key to Combat’s successful path forward. 

At the heart of the new Hellcat will be a new S&S Motors 124ci V‑Twin. Combat’s long‑running 132‑inch S&S X‑Wedge is unable to meet the latest emissions regulations, so this new mill will power all future Combats. 

Combat Motors Hellcat
The left side of the Hellcat is beautifully uncluttered. The finned section behind the front wheel hides the oil tank. Mid-mount foot controls split the difference between forwards and rearsets, both of which will be available as options.

“We’ll actually have more power coming out of that S&S 124 than we had on the 132 X‑Wedge, which was inefficient and ran hot,” said Lee. S&S says the mill produces 102 hp at 5,100 rpm and 119.3 lb‑ft of torque at 4,000 rpm with its 50‑state tuning. A hotter cam will bump output to around 115 hp. 

Electronics are provided by AiM Technologies, which is an electronics supplier for racing machines. A power‑distribution module is built into the instrumentation, so all the relays and switches are integrated into that control panel, and electronic shutoffs are used instead of traditional fuses. 

Lee said Combat’s new designs lean heavily on finite element analysis to build components that are lightweight yet robust. The goal is to have the new Hellcat weigh less than 500 lb. 

Combat Motors Hellcat
In a first for the brand, the Hellcat will come standard with pillion accommodations. “I wanted to have customers that were happy they could take their husbands or wives with them,” he said. “I say ‘husbands or wives’ because we have a couple of female customers, and I’d like to have more.”

“The testing and the certification are really important for the bikes, both to make them lighter than they ever have been and also to make sure they’re more durable.” 

The decisions Combat is making, both in individual design and limiting the model line, result from a two‑pronged approach: a focus on serviceability and moving into the realm of a veritable manufacturer. 

“Parts, service, and support are really important for the brand to go from being a bike builder to becoming a manufacturer,” he said, noting that Combats come with a two‑year warranty. “We’ll have service vendors, and the entire system will be shared with our dealers.”

Combat Motors Hellcat
The carbon-fiber strip between the CNC’d fuel tank halves tidily conceals wiring and electronics. The LED taillight includes a pair of cameras that serve as rear-view mirrors when the turnsignals are activated.

Rather than the bespoke production of the Wraith and Fighter models, the Hellcat will enter series production, with 50 units being built right off the hop. 

“Until you’re actually manufacturing your base model in mass, you’re a bike builder (and not a manufacturer),” Lee said. “It’s important to me that going forward, we’re manufacturing motorcycles and that we’re delivering a good quality product built in America that we support.” 

The upcoming Hellcat is the next step in Combat’s evolution from boutique bike builder to small‑scale manufacturer. Watching it unfold will be fascinating, so stay tuned for more.

SIDEBAR: The Most Interesting Man in the World?

Combat Motors Earnest Lee

Ernest Lee learned to negotiate around the time his voice changed, providing “free labor” for his dad, who was a freight broker. 

“I could answer the phones, and nobody knew the difference. So I started negotiating freight contracts at 14 years old, and I was negotiating with truck drivers, which is a different skill right there in itself.”

From that point until taking over Confederate Motors, Lee has done almost everything under the sun. A few examples:

  •  Served in the U.S. Army Infantry
  •  Started a coffee business, opening five locations in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, including the area’s first “internet cafe”
  •  Bought a taxicab company for $5,000 that he sold five years later for $4 million
  •  Went to law school and worked in London doing taxes for private equity companies
  •  Started a 1%-a-day lending program
  •  Bought, refurbished, and resold thousands of used espresso machines from Starbucks 
  •  Trained to be a rodeo pickup man grabbing guys off bucking broncos
  •  Founded to do taxes for rodeos
  •  Started trading cryptocurrency and founded


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